I have an update for you on our Animal Welfare certification through A Greener World. As part of the process, we welcomed our auditor, Daniel, to the homestead on October 17. It was a great time of conversation, questions, answers and thinking hard.
Believe me, this is a RIGOROUS process.
First, some background. How did we get here? In order to qualify for this important next step in our goals, we started by answering a 50-page questionnaire. We provided details at every step of our flock’s development - feeding, housing, breeding, lambing, vaccinations, deworming, foot health, any disease testing, shearing, tracking, testimonials from our veterinarian, quarantine protocols, tail docking, castration, supplements, health management, emergency planning. . . the list went on and on. Once that was done and submitted, we waited for our audit date on pins and needles.
Thankfully, our auditor Daniel came to the homestead with a wealth of knowledge and a lot of personal experience. As a farmer himself, Daniel asked insightful questions and provided a tremendous amount of confidence to us as we moved through the day. I knew that he knew what he was talking about and was fully capable of handling the breadth and depth of information we’d thrown at him. All the way from Georgia, although our experiences are very different, our goal was the same – to ensure that the handling of our sheep was appropriate, well-considered, had their best interests at the forefront and represented the absolute tip-top of ethical and moral standards. It was. . . exhausting.
So why put ourselves through this?
Beyond the always-useful review and consideration by an objective observer, the Animal Welfare certification gives you, our community, the assurance that we are backing up our claims with real, measurable and verifiable documentation. Thanks to the current state of regulation in Canada, there are a lot of claims but very little accountability required to back them up. I’m not interested in waving a flag that doesn’t stand for anything. When I started down this path, I did so with the intention that anything I said was something I would be able to prove. I wanted people who bought fleeces or animals from me to KNOW – beyond any doubt – that what they were holding in their hands represented the very best of what any shepherd anywhere had to offer. It's part of our core value, transparency.
Additionally, as a relatively new shepherd – I’ve been doing this for four years now – I felt more confident knowing I had a community of passionate and knowledgeable agricultural professionals from a wide variety of experience and background available to me if there were questions I needed to answer. You may be aware – or not – that the world of animal welfare is fraught and what’s acceptable to one producer, may not be acceptable to another. With so many moving targets, I wanted something solid and dependable, something that had the confidence of both the marketplace and my peers.
I was looking for a foundation and I believe I’ve found one I – as a shepherd – and you - as a fibre/heritage breed enthusiast - can feel completely comfortable with.
We’re not certified yet. Our next step is another phone interview to answer any further questions that the audit may have uncovered. After that, we’ll be waiting (bring out the pins and needles!!) for the decision the review board at A Greener World will make. I will absolutely let you know how it goes.
In the meantime, do check our Instagram and Facebook @providencelanehomestead for all the day-to-day and behind-the-scenes pictures and stories here. Reach out and send me your questions! I’d love to talk to you about the certification process or the farm. Let’s keep the conversation going.